Jane Eyre as Feminist Role Model for all Women

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Jane Eyre as Feminist Role Model for all Women

In 1837 critic Robert Southey wrote to Charlotte Bronte, "Literature

cannot be the business of a woman's life, and it ought not to be. The more

she is engaged in her proper duties, the less leisure will she have for it,

even as an accomplishment and a recreation," (Gaskell 102). This opinion

was not held by only one person, but by many. Indeed, it is this attitude,

one that debases women and their abilities, to which Charlotte Bronte

responds with Jane Eyre. The purpose of Jane Eyre, not only the novel, but

also the character herself as a cultural heroine, is to transform a

primeval society, one which devalues women and their contributions, into a

nobler order of civilization (Craig 57). The effectiveness of Bronte's

argument is due to both her motivation and approach. Bronte found her

motivation from the experiences she had undergone while living in the

Victorian era. Her approach in advocating social reform is to establish

Jane as a model for readers. Readers are meant to examine Jane's life,

especially the manner in which she handles problems or confrontations in

her relationships, and to follow her example in their own lives. Just as

we see Jane as a model of a woman successful in asserting her self-worth,

we are also given a warning about the possible outcome of failure to

realize self-worth in Bertha Rochester. This facet will also be discussed

briefly. Bronte uses the motivation of personal experiences to create the

life of Jane Eyre in which we see the quest for social betterment through

her relationships.

Bronte herself experienced the social ...

... middle of paper ...

...ler civilization that realizes the

worth of women.


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Craig, G. Armour. "The Unpoetic Compromise: On the Relationship

Between Private Vision and Social Order in the Nineteenth-

Century English Fiction." Nineteenth Century Literary

Criticism. Ed. L. Harris and E. Tennyson. Michigan: Gale

Research Co., 1985. 61-62

Gaskell, E. The Life of Charlotte Bronte. England: E.P. Dutton,

Inc., 1975

London, Bette. "The Pleasure of Submission: Jane Eyre and the

Production of the Text." "ELH." Spring 1991. 195-213

Schact, Paul. "Jane Eyre and the History of Self-Respect."

"Modern Language Quarterly." Dec 1991. 423-53

Sienkewicz, Anne W. "Jane Eyre An Autobiography."

Masterplots II. Ed. Frank Magill. California: Salem Press, 1991. 745-748

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